72 years ago today, American, British, and Canadian troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France. The largest seaborne invasion in history, the operation began the liberation of German-occupied northwestern Europe from Nazi control during WWII, and contributed to the Allied victory on the Western Front. The weather was far from ideal, as storms and high winds made maintain the positions of the ships carrying the soldiers difficult. However, postponing the operation could have required up to a month of additional planning, so the operation went forward as scheduled. Prior to the landing of over 24,000 troops, the area received extensive aerial and naval bombardment from Allied forces. Despite this, as the troops landed shortly after midnight on June 6th, they did so under heavy artillery fire from Germans positioned on the area's many high cliffs. The beaches were riddled with barbed wire, wooden stakes, and metal tripods, adding to the difficulty of crossing them.
The D-Day invasion took place while Germany occupied large portions of Europe, including France, Norway, and Denmark. The capture of Normandy served as a pivotal point in the war, allowing the Allied Forces to liberate France and eventually helped lead to the end of WWII in Europe. Over 10,000 Allied troops died during the D-Day invasion, with the Germans losing close to 1,000.
Today, the Normandy coast is much the same as it was in 1944. Many of the bomb craters and beach obstacles can still be seen. War memorials and cemeteries for the soldiers that died on the beaches of Normandy are visited by thousands every year. These visitors include some of the participants of the D-Day invasion themselves, revisiting the place that was a turning point in the war and the graves of their comrades who never made it home.